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Shoppers Say New Bottle Bill Won't Change Habits03:07

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Shoppers at the Roche Brothers supermarket in Mashpee ferry cargoes of bottled water on the lower decks of their shopping carts.

Phil Bardua likes the idea of expanding the bottle bill to water and sports-drink bottles.

"Keeps them out of the landfill," Bardua said. "Keeps them from along the roads and the streets and everything."

But Bardua points out that he already recycles the plastic bottles he buys at the supermarket.

Helga Arthur also supports expanding the bottle bill.

"I think anything that would help with recycling would be a positive thing," Arthur said.

But Arthur admits she doesn't even bother to return the beer and soda bottles that she buys anymore.

"Years ago, we used to take bottles back," Arthur said. "We did save them up and we did take them back to the grocery store." Instead, she says, she just puts them in her blue recycling bin, along with the water and juice bottles. "I do try to separate them out," Arthur said.

Two women and five children push their carts uphill to their vehicle. One of the women, Sephra Barrios, doesn't think expanding the bottle bill would make her any more likely to take her water bottles back.

"Even with cans, or glass, I don't have a tendency to return them," Barrios said. "It's more of a pain than anything to collect 'em, especially with children. I just think it wouldn't make sense. We try to recycle, but generally, they just go in the trash."

Most people in Massachusetts don't just throw their bottles in the trash. Ninety percent of the state's residents have access to curbside recycling now, and most do recycle the bottles they buy at the supermarket. The problem is with the bottles of juice and water people buy on-the-go. Only 22 percent of those get recycled. Janet Domenitz, the executive director of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, says if people had to pay a deposit on those, they'd return them.

"What will happen once we update the bottle bill is there'll be easily accessible reverse vending machines," Domenitz said. "Machines that you just stick the bottle in and you get a nickel or scrip back worth a nickel. They'll just be more prevalent. I just spent a week in Maine where they updated the bottle bill a couple years ago, and it's just much easier. There's more locations to get your containers redeemed."

The state is actually counting on people to continue not returning bottles, because that's how it will make more money. The office of Administration and Finance estimates that the state will make an extra $20 million a year in unredeemed deposits. Others expect to make money, as well: redemption centers will get an extra cent for every bottle they redeem, and small mom-and-pop stores will be able to get out of redeeming bottles if there's a redemption center nearby.

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This program aired on July 16, 2010.

Fred Thys Twitter Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.


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